Mendota Holiday Feast

December 21, 2008 5:31:27 PM PST
More than a thousand people got a free holiday meal in Mendota Sunday, completely sponsored and donated by the community. The town's mayor says things are as bad there as they've ever been, not only because the tough economy, but also the drought.

One woman said she's worked packing cantaloupes for 18 years but says she hasn't been able to work since October. "The work hasn't been good this year, they didn't plan us much. A lot of people have been out of work with no way to live," she said.

The community wide meal was sponsored by the city and community members and businesses chipped in to buy more than 90 turkeys. The mayor pro-tem says the free meal is especially important this year because unemployment is over 30 percent. "There's folks that are unemployed, and have been unemployed for many months and it's hard. It's very hard in this community," said Joseph Amador.

Most of the work in Mendota is tied to the Ag industry. Just months ago, Spreckels Sugar closed its sugar beet plant, cutting more than 200 jobs. Production is also down in the fields because of a lack of water. "We're just hoping God sends us some rain, so we can have some crops in this area, this is what we live from, the crops," said Amador.

Despite the tough times, people in Mendota say they're keeping their spirits high during the holiday season. "It's okay. We don't have any presents, we don't have any money. How can you get presents?" said 13 year old Jose Ortega. Still, Ortega said he's going to have a good Christmas anyway because he'll be with his family.

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